Sunday, January 30, 2011

Aligned Stars and the Presence of Dynamite

There has been a whole lot written about "balance" between work and family, and almost all of it is aimed at women. I could never work when my kids were small, particularly the boys. And I'm not talking work as in leaving the house with shaved legs and make up on. I mean work as in planting marigolds.

I actually tried to make a garden once when both boys were toddlers. Philip began "tasting" the sand and Christopher got stuck in the thorny berry patch and began howling. So I just played with them. Everyone stayed intact and the only "balance" I had in my life occurred when I got the two boys, the groceries and the dog food into the shopping cart without tipping.

But they're older now, so the other day when I got a phone call from an actual interview person, I felt really cool. And I rarely feel cool, but that morning I did. I had cleaned my desk off and my new YA was coming together and I had FINALLY bought living room curtains, so all my stars were aligned. There I was, with that new ms, an interview, and Christopher safely off at college.

Of course, my life is generally not this smooth. The other side of that day was that the living room curtains are still in the bag, the YA only has the first chapter and a half done, and it was a snow day which meant Philip and Emma were both home.

Philip and Emma have been tight playmates ever since we toted Emma to the playground with us in a Snuggli.

Life with them is something like this. This is Philip's personality:

So alone, that's not so bad. Here's what happens when Emma comes along:

And there's a bigger reason I chose those images. So there I am, on the phone, feeling cool for the first three seconds of the interview. Very writerly. Very organized. And I get this text while I'm talking about organized,writerly things: Rmbr that rocket P got for his bd a lng time ago?

I do remember the rocket Philip got for his birthday. He was turning12 and a well-meaning (childless) friend had given him a rocket to launch. Somehow, because I had put it there it ended up in a box of old maternity clothes.

Put it back, I texted, and get out of the basement while I'm on the phone!!!!!

Mom, is he lying or is this acktual dynomite? BRB

So I trotted down to the basement, still discussing character and plot and all those kinds of things. I got the rocket and wrote an old fashioned note to them: We can launch this later, when I'm off the phone. I got the interview done. I sounded, the interviewer said, very animated.

 If only she knew that it wasn't plot structure giving so much pitch to my voice.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

MG/YA Brains: The Divide

Whenever my house seems dusty and cluttered, which is a lot, I put on some real estate show and look at the adults only kind of living with porcelain objects on tables and alien things like crystal and wine decanters. It's an entirely different world from mine. There, basketballs would never roll across a living room floor (we have a small Juliette balcony which sounds so lovely, but it is at the perfect height for a basketball toss) and you wouldn't have to think of a way to hide cat scratch marks on the sofas.

I love watching those shows. It's an escape that helps me come back and hurl rogue basketballs into the garage, pick up the fossilized socks under the sofas and start the laundry with renewed apathy.

I do that with work, too. A few days ago, I was writing curriculum for a course I am less than excited about teaching. So in the middle of a thrilling lesson on apostrophe usage, I went online and looked at new jobs. These jobs wouldn't be in my classroom where the windows don't open, ever, and the air conditioning kicks in the week before Christmas. These would be in new and shiny classrooms where the students didn't text while I was talking about Herman Melville and all the apostrophes would arrive in meticulously rendered papers. I just needed to find that job.

One really interested me. It was about an hour from here and it was teaching MG and YA writing. You had to have written and published at least one book, have a current manuscript and a bunch of other requisites  that I already have. It sounded perfect.

Of course, it's impossible for me to do this job since I'm already overly committed for the spring, but thinking about teaching MG and YA was no different from my viewing of adult only houses staged for sale.

And it made me think, again, about those lines between MG and YA. They seem so definite in the bookstores and libraries. Yet books like The Hobbit confuse me - that was assigned in our seventh grade class, yet it is in the YA section in a lot of places. Number the Stars, also a book I taught in middle school, is in the YA section. Other than obvious subject matter, I'm not sure what divides them. I have an idea, though, now, after one of our pre-dinner conversations.

Christopher was saying something about sleep and the brain, and how dreaming is essential to survival. (Remember finishing your first semester of college psychology and all the stuff you found out?) The conversation went something like this:

Definitely a YA reader, with a semi mature attitude. I say semi mature because Christopher would also agree with this brain theory:

Emma, who was gluing feathers onto the cover of her report on cell function, (because cell function reports are dull) explained to Christopher that she knew, exactly, why we dream.

"When you go to sleep, your brain has nothing to look at and nothing to do. It's sooooo bored. So it makes up stories until you wake up. That's why you dream."

I think I had my answer to the difference.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Spending New Year's Eve Alone

With hubster working on New Year's Eve and nobody local available, I decided, for the first time, ever, to spend New Year's Eve alone.

 I probably could have imposed myself on people who vaguely mentioned plans, but after the ho ho ho-ness of the holidays, I was pretty much looking forward to a few hours of hanging out with Mazy and the cats. Actually, impossibly nerdy as it sounds, I wanted to write for a couple of hours.

 Yup, on New Year's Eve.

I thought if I took the kids to a nice place early in the evening, maybe some place wintry and cultural and made snacks, that would be enough of a celebration. I found this lovely lake in nearby Smithville - definitely fit the bill for wintry and cultural. I even found a video of the place I liked: 

So off we went, kids, friends and complaints. By the time we found the lake, everyone was cold. And hungry. And grumpy. And vocal about all three of those conditions. My vision of an enchanting early evening felt much more like this -

But, like most trips with teenagers, and Emma as the mascot, there was adventure. I took a wrong turn somewhere because we were looking at "old people" eating in an inn. I thought it was nice, but the kids could not imagine sitting sedately at an inn because it was rich with history.

 After the wrong turn, we drove for a really, really long time down a road with only marshes on either side. At the end was one of those bars that looks like it's falling into the swampland. I might have mentioned that the road was a perfect place for serial murderers to await prey. It's amazing how young they are - everyone got uncharacteristically quiet right after I said that.

I did find out a few tidbits: Christopher is going to study homeland security as a minor. Wow. I didn't realize you could get a degree in that. And Philip, being Philip, announced he wants to start a garden. I was so happy: all those seed plantings I took him to at the organic farm, all those nature walks and watching peppers grow had paid off.

Then I remembered, This is Philip talking. So I was ready for some kind of weird vegetable, maybe okra or kohlrabi.

"Know what I want to grow?"
"Umm, beets?"
"Nope. Tobacco. Tobacco and tea."
Don't all sixteen year olds?

I spent some of the night alone, but they all sent me texts at midnight, and Philip and I are going to find out how to grow tea in New Jersey, or maybe just leaves resembling tea.

And I'm taking New Year's Eve 2010 as an omen for 2011: I think it's going to be a year of surprises.